STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A professional training program designed for employees to recognize and report instances of child abuse is in the works at Penn State.
The university announced Thursday the first phase of the program would begin April 18 to fill an immediate need to train employees working in summer programs, including camps. An online interactive training program for all employees would be launched this fall to replace the in-person training.
The announcement comes more than five months after the arrest of retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky has denied the allegations.
The school said in a statement that various university offices and faculty experts worked with outside groups, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Centre County Women's Resource Center, to put the training in place.
Penn State ultimately wants all employees trained online starting this fall.
"It's our belief that anyone at Penn State, not just those who work directly with children, should understand the law and its requirements, should be able to identify signs of abuse and should know exactly who to call and how to report," President Rodney Erickson said in the statement.
Erickson replaced Graham Spanier, who along with Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno, were ousted by school trustees Nov. 9, four days after Sandusky was first arrested.
Spanier is on sabbatical but can return to teach at Penn State. He told friends and colleagues in a recent email that he will be working the next several months on a "special project" for the federal government relating to national security. Spanier wrote that the work built on past experience fostering improved cooperation between national security agencies and other entities, though he offered no more detail in the email.
Also this week, a group of students announced the start of The One Heart Campaign to secure contributions for the Vision of Hope Fund of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
An alumni-inspired fundraising drive that solicited donations through the website http://www.proudtobeapennstater.com/ raised more than $529,000 since November for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which describes itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
The amount surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $500,000 with roughly 75 percent of the total raised in the first week after the drive was announced in early November, said one of the group's co-founders, Jerry Needel, a 1998 graduate from Hoboken, N.J.
"We were able to give an outlet for a lot of the energy and emotion" in the scandal's aftermath, Needel said in a phone interview. "And it made it easy for people to put the focus back on the victims ... It was an important part of the healing process for the community."
Penn State openness website: http://openness.psu.edu/updates.html
One Heart campaign: http://www.facebook.com/OneHeartPSU